I have written before about my concerns that the Investigatory Powers Bill, which is due to replace the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), has in its various iterations contained provisions that for the first time ever in a UK statute expressly seek to override legal professional privilege.
There has been a lot of discussion between interested bodies (The Law Society, Bar Council and others) on the one hand and Government on the other, and I had become very concerned that we were losing the battle and that this legislation would go through.
It is therefore very heartening to see that this week a number of prominent lawyers in the House of Lords - particularly Lord Pannick QC, Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC and Lord Carlile of Berriew QC (to name but a few) have spoken out against this legislation in a way that has clearly conveyed the legal professions’ concerns.
I was particularly pleased to see that Lord Pannick said in Parliament on 27 June 2016:-
“One matter that will require particularly careful consideration… is the protection of legal professional privilege. … The reason for that is that unless a client knows that the solicitor and counsel will not disclose what they have been told in confidence, the client will simply not be prepared to speak honestly and openly when seeking legal advice. LPP [legal professional privilege] is, therefore fundamental to the rule of law. It is important to emphasise that these rights belong to and benefit the client. They are not privileges for lawyers.”
Well said - and I really hope that the Government will listen and reconsider how best to balance the need for the authorities to have up to date powers to obtain information to address the real dangers that we all face from terrorism and serious crime, as against this long established fundamental human right that is so integral to the administration of UK justice.
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